Watson Farley & Williams raids Lovells for Spanish launch

Project finance partner Joaquín Sales and energy counsel Maria Pilar Garcia both join the Madrid start-up as partners, bringing with them three associates.

The office marks entry into a ninth jurisdiction for WFW and is part of what the firm refers to as a pan-European focus on renewables energy tying in expertise in Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

“We’ve been building a European renewable business for the last few years,” commented the firm’s managing partner Michael Greville. “We identified a gap in the Spanish market about 18 months ago and wanted to position ourselves [to take advantage of it].”

The Spanish government recently decided to reduce the subsidy to certain renewable projects, which has led some lawyers to claim it will become a commercially unviable sector to operate in (25 May 2009). However, Greville argued that this presented new opportunities.

“We think there’s plenty of work around. Renewables is not dead. The [changes to the] tariff is creating an all-change, as clients move out new ones move in.”

Lovells Madrid managing partner Jose Maria Balana said that his office is left with two partners in the energy, infrastructure and project finance sector, but said the firm may look at recruiting to replace the departing lawyers.

“In order to reinforce this practice group we may be envisaging recruiting further,” he said. “We will miss Joaquín personally, we think it’s a very courageous venture and he goes with our best wishes.”